AirPlay is Apple's Wi-Fi audio streaming tech and there's now a second-generation version. But what is AirPlay 2, what will it be able to do and what products will you be able to use it with? We explain all.

AirPlay 2 is now available, appearing in iOS 11.4, so should be available to the majority of Apple users.

What is Apple AirPlay 2?

  • Update to Apple's long-running AirPlay protocol
  • Offers multi-room and stereo pairing for HomePod

AirPlay 2 opens up a whole world of multi-room streaming capabilities that were previously not available on the iPhone or iPad. AirPlay 2 also ushers in multi-room compatibility for the HomePod.

AirPlay was first introduced in September 2010, having previously been called AirTunes for audio-only streaming. The basic premise of AirPlay and AirPlay 2 is a system comprising a sender and a receiver. The sender is something like your MacBook or iPhone, and the receiver is an Apple TV or third-party speaker, such as a Sonos device. All devices need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

AirPlay 2 introduces some features around controlling multiple speakers to the iPhone and iPad. Previously you needed a macOS device to do this with AirPlay, so it's definitely a step forward.

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Which Apple devices will support AirPlay 2?

AirPlay 2 rolled out as part of iOS 11.4. The full list of compatible devices is as follows:

iPhone

  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 6S
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 5S

iPad

  • 12.9in iPad Pro (first generation)
  • 12.9in iPad Pro (second generation)
  • 9.7in iPad Pro
  • 10.5in iPad Pro
  • iPad (2018)
  • iPad (fifth generation)
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Air
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 2

iPod touch

  • iPod touch (6th generation)

Apple TV

  • Apple TV 4th Gen

MacBook and MacBook Pro

  • MacBook: Late 2009 or later
  • iMac/iMac Pro:Late 2009 or later
  • MacBook Air: 2010 or later
  • MacBook Pro: 2010 or later
  • Mac mini: 2010 or later
  • Mac Pro: 2010 or later

In other words, anything made more than 7 years ago isn't supported for AirPlay 2.

How does AirPlay 2 work with iOS?

  • Control multiple speakers from the iPhone or iPad
  • Multiple users can add songs to one playlist
  • Multi-room for HomePod

Apple AirPlay 2 adds speaker control to the Home app, meaning you can individually control all of your AirPlay compatible speakers from your iPhone for the first time. Note, however, that the speakers will need to support AirPlay 2. This is something that can already be done using a MacBook with iTunes, but iOS devices have previously lacked the ability. 

Considering it's more down to the phone sending the audio signals to the speakers, we expect any streaming service you have installed on your iPhone to be able to work with AirPlay 2 speakers.

When you play music from your iOS device, you can select which speakers around your home you want it to be sent to and control individual volumes of those speakers. These controls can be found in Control Centre by swiping up from the bottom of your iPhone screen.

One feature that Apple has said is possible with AirPlay 2 is the ability to play different songs in different rooms, although only Apple Music subscribers can take advantage of it. You can simply ask Siri to play one song on one speaker, and another on one in a different room.

Another new feature with AirPlay 2, is the ability for multiple users to add songs to one playlist. Say you're at a party, and one person has their iPhone as the music source, playing Apple Music. Other Apple Music users will be able to send songs they want played to the source iPhone, to save having to connect and reconnect several phones.

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When is AirPlay 2 coming to my speakers?

The following brands have confirmed existing hardware will get updates. We'll update this list as more updates roll out.

Bang and Olufsen

Bang and Olufsen confirmed it will offer AirPlay 2 updates in August and September 2018 to the following products:

  • Beoplay M3, M5, A6, A9 mk2
  • BeoSound 1, 2, 35
  • BeoSound Essence mk2
  • BeoSound Core
  • BeoSound Shape (via BeoSound Core)
  • BeoVision Eclipse (audio only)

Bose

According to a Bose forum thread, Bose is "actively collecting information to answer inquiries about AirPlay 2 and HomeKit". Confirmations are scarce, but some are confirmed:

  • Bose Home Speaker 500 - 2019
  • Soundbar 500 - 2019
  • Soundbar 700 - 2019

Denon

Denon has announced that AirPlay 2 will be coming to a number of its new and current hi-fi and home cinema components, and lays claim to being the first manufacturer to put the streaming tech into an AVR. The 2018 models will get the tech first but the 2017 models will get it at a later date.

Libratone

Libratone said an update will come to its Zipp line. Unfortunately, it's not coming to the AirPlay-enabled Diva soundbar or older products.

  • Libratone Zipp - October 2018

Naim

Naim has confirmed that Mu-so and Uniti models will be updated to support AirPlay 2. The update for Mu-so should be rolling out now, the Uniti update will land later in November 2018

  • Mu-so - early November 2018
  • Mu-so Special Edition - early November 2018
  • Mu-so Qb - early November 2018
  • Uniti Atom - late November 2018
  • Uniti Star - late November 2018
  • Uniti Nova - late November 2018

Sonos

Sonos has confirmed only newer Sonos speakers will support AirPlay 2, as will future Sonos products. But the company has gone a little further and confirmed that AirPlay 2 will be coming to the following speakers following a software update in July 2018:

  • Play:5 (second-gen)
  • Playbase
  • Sonos One
  • Sonos Beam

Apple AirPlay 2 with Apple TV

Provided you have tvOS 11 (which is already available) your Apple TV can send audio to speakers around your home as well, rather than just coming from your iPhone or iPad.

Furthermore, Apple has suggested that whatever speaker is connected to the Apple TV, be it a soundbar or speaker system, that would automatically become a de facto AirPlay 2 speaker. Now that is pretty cool. 

Apple AirPlay 2 in HomeKit

AirPlay 2 will also be able to be used with other HomeKit devices to create scenes. Imagine coming home and not only your lights coming on to welcome you but a fanfare of trumpets played through AirPlay 2 supporting speakers.

On a more serious note though, you could use it to alert you of certain things that are happening - like an alarm - or merely that part of your evening routine is to have music played at a certain time automatically without you having to worry about turning it on. 

Apple AirPlay 2 with Siri

Siri takes on a prominent role with the arrival of AirPlay 2 and multi-room audio. You can tell her which speakers you want music playing on whichever speakers you have dotted around your home, and you can even ask her to play different songs on different speakers. You're not just restricted to using Siri with the HomePod either, as she will play nice with any other third-party AirPlay 2 speaker. 

Will the original AirPlay still work?

Yes, don't worry!